There has been some confusion in the world about how to refer to me since I've gotten married. The bank initially refused to cash checks written out to "Tina Kittle" even though I had a joint account with Joel. I asked if they could just put Tina Kittle down as an alias since I was keeping my last name. They said no. Then, after a bit of fuss, they arbitrarily changed my name on all my accounts to "Tina Pham Kittle" so I could cash checks.
The other day, Joel received a benefits explanation form from his insurance (I got put on his insurance upon marriage) for "Tina Kittle." Now, I'm pretty darn sure that Disney knows what my name is, since I have a fancy Silver Pass with my name on it. I'm also pretty sure that the dentist knows what my name is, since I opened a line of credit with them with the name "Tina Pham" and I never actually told them to change my last name. But the insurance company has me down as "Tina Kittle," which I won't really protest so long as my coverage is good.
I think because I'm not changing my name, this world is confused. The real problem is that there is a social expectation that permeates through to all aspects of my life that Joel and I should have the same name now that we're married. The bank, the insurance, the grocery store, the restaurants.
Now, Joel and I got into a mini-argument the other day when I told him just to add "Kittle" at the end of this membership form we were filling out, or else the thing would be addressed "Mr. and Mrs. Pham" since they didn't ask what my husband's name is. He asked, if I was going to put Tina Pham Kittle down on half the stuff, why I didn't just change my name to that to begin with and simplify matters.
Good question. I did tell Joel that post-wedding, if people referred to me as Mrs. Kittle, I wouldn't correct them. I told him that if he was all right being referred to as Mr. Pham, I'd be okay with Mrs. Kittle. I didn't actually say I would actively use Mrs. Kittle, though, which I think is where he's surprised.
I did think for a bit about what last name to go with before getting married (though I became way more reflective about this post-wedding when people started addressing me as Tina Kittle) and this is what I came up with.
1. People who meet me first and Joel second will know what my full name is. If they think of him as Mr. Pham, then that's Joel's problem and not mine. People to whom Joel introduces me to as his wife will most likely always know me as Joel's wife first, to which Mrs. Kittle is appropriate. I can respond to both in social situations and no one will think it weird.
2. Okay, yes, we live in a patriarchal society where my last original last name derives from my father and what's the difference between having my father's name and my husband's? My parents raised me and to just totally change my family name seems a little disrespectful to all their hard work. Plus, when they named me, they probably thought long and hard about what name went well with the last name Pham, not a good all-purpose name that could be paired with most names.
3. What if we have kids and I'll have a different last name from my kids? First, no one knows what Joel and I will decide to do about that so that assumption is based on status quo, which had dictated that I change my name. If my kids are [Name] Pham Kittle, then they'll have both our last names. End of issue. Second, in the Vietnamese culture, women don't leave their family names behind and adopt their husband's name when they marry. It's definitely an adopted Western custom. I have many cousins whose moms' names are different from theirs and they don't seem to care. Neither do my aunts. I have a couple cousins growing up who wish their last name was Pham, but other than that they were unaffected by their moms having different last names.
4. I didn't want to get all new IDs, passports, credit cards, etc. Think about that DMV line. Not worth it.
5. I'm used to the name. Tina Pham is my name. I grew up with it. I have degrees that say "Tina Pham." If Joel's not changing his name, why should I?